Originally published in HRB, August 16th 2019
Being passionate about your job is great — but there are limits. If you become so wrapped up in your professional identity that setbacks at work affect your self-worth, that’s a problem. Keep a healthy perspective by distinguishing who you are from what you do. Your job is just that — a job. Maybe you’re a “senior analyst” at work, but in life you’re much more than that. Your worth as a person is not tied to your position on the org chart.
So when someone criticizes a report you wrote or a presentation you gave, remind yourself that they’re criticizing the report or the presentation, not you. By shifting your perspective this way, you build resilience and protect your self-esteem from challenges and even failures (which are inevitable, after all). And having a strong sense of self, in turn, will help you perform better in your role.
When people are dissatisfied at work, they can feel as though they have two choices: quit or voice their concerns.
Organizations can prevent turnover and retain more employees by creating work environments in which people want to choose the latter.
One way to help employees feel heard is to regularly conduct anonymous surveys that allow them to give feedback on various aspects of their roles. When people can speak up about their frustrations without facing consequences for it, managers can gain valuable insights into what their employees want and need.
Share the results of these surveys with the leadership team; you may want to address common concerns in a companywide offsite or team meetings. It’s also important for managers to show employees they are acting on prominent issues.
You may not be able to solve every problem or fix every dissatisfaction, but demonstrating that you’re willing to listen is a good step toward improving work for everyone.
Harvard Business Review
No one comes to work with the idea that they are going to screw things up. As executives, we start each day with the best of intentions: Today will be a better day than yesterday.
Today we will move something forward and feel proud of our expended energy and the results we produced. We do everything we can to avoid making mistakes.
And still, there are four errors you might be making—you just might not know it. We call them “The Four Errors of an Executive”:
1. Assuming you know more than others.
2. Acting like you are the authority.
3. Playing it safe.
4. Believing that you have to sacrifice your personal life for the company’s good.
Let’s take them one at a time and see if you are making any of them.
Error Number One: Assuming you know more than others.
Chances are, you have risen to a position of authority through both experience and tenure; this isn’t your first rodeo. And to be sure, having a breadth and depth of experience and wisdom counts for a lot. However, a kind of arrogance, or something like it, can set in.
We have worked in the field of resilience for over 20 years. We have helped our clients understand how resilience fails, how to bounce, and how to sustain an effective integration between work and life. Dealing with our mental illness reality demands a specific, tailored response.
In 2017 we launched our first programmes to help leaders and managers increase their skill and confidence to support mental illness and recovery in their businesses. The original article is here.
Find out more about our mental health training programme options and toolkit.
Since that time we have worked with hundreds of leaders to refine and deliver a simple, cost-effective solution. The situation is more pressing:
- Mental illness is firmly in focus at all levels of society
- Attention disorders, isolation, anxiety and depression are common
- Health & safety legislation demands that business pays attention
- Work is increasingly complex, fluid, uncertain and pressured
- People are struggling to keep key parts of their lives integrated
- Disruption in many forms is an ever-present threat
- Leaders very much want to learn how to lead for mental wellbeing
This is the basic course structure which can be run through workshops or our Resilience App digital training. It includes a comprehensive workbook.
Find out more about our mental health training programme options and toolkit.
For a quick insight into the course:
Quick Facts on Mental Illness at Work
- $1 trillion cost to global productivity and affecting 615m
- 50% increase in depression and anxiety (1990- 2013)
- ROI from mental health programmes is $4+ for each $1 (npv)
- 25% of students (13 to 18) affected by anxiety
- Conflict, impulsive outbursts, bullying…
- Social withdrawal disorder and autism increasing (1m/year)
- Substance abuse has a significant mental health overlap
- Depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, dementias…
Our conclusion is that a basic understanding of the key concepts that underpin mental illness is necessary. Further, we recommend that every leader and manager can recognise the key signs of common conditions. Let’s start with the common conditions:
Depression, diagnosed as unremitting sadness, loss of confidence, confusion, appetite and sleep disturbance for two weeks is the most common. Suicide takes 800,000 lives per year and depression has a massive cost to productivity. Sadness prevails and it is a form of “freeze” reaction
- Physical signs: loss of energy, disturbed appetite, sleep disturbance
- Emotional signs: sadness, despair, tears, joyless and loss of hope
- Cognitive signs: confusion, self-doubt, poor memory, indecisive
Distress first presents with physical symptoms such as tension, respiratory, cardiac, abdominal or skin disorders. When overwhelmed by pressure, we experience anxiety and worry. We all feel anxiety (fear) at times. It is a “flight” reaction.
- Distress symptoms – body, sleep, weight
- Emotional outbursts – tears, panic, anger
- Hyperventilation – sighing, breath-holding, mouth breathing
- Persistent worry about the future
- Health issues may be present
- People may present as “not coping”
3. Hostility Disorders
Given the apparent increase in anger in society, this is an important condition. This is the “fight” response and may present as:
- Angry outbursts, shouting, swearing and calling out others
- Passive aggressive resistance and resentment…..
Clearly, no mental illness suddenly presents. It is almost always a process of progressive failure. It starts in the mind, progresses to emotion and only then presents as a diagnosis. Leaders who can recognise the process can intervene skilfully and prevent illness. This means being alert to overload, attention failure and withdrawal as below.
Leaders skilled at noticing how and when resilience fails are powerfully placed to intervene and prevent risk.
For example: at Confused, simplify priorities and give people a clear goal. At Disengaged understand how to establish rhythms, breaks and rejuvenation disciplines. At Withdrawn, reach out to a person and be sincerely interested. However, a leader’s job is not to be a psychiatrist.
While a better understanding and skilful bounce reinforcement is effective, it is important to know where skilled help can be found. That may be through human resources, EAP, coaches, psychologists or medical specialists. Our experience is that many leaders do not follow up. When someone is referred to expert help it is important to know that the event actually happened, how it is followed up and preferably some measures on how things have improved.
When one of your team is struggling with a mental health issue it can be unsettling. Be brave and meet with confidence. You are an important aspect of recovery.
Always be sincerely respectful. If you are concerned, reach out to someone in privacy and in a supportive environment. Sometimes simply showing your care can begin recovery.
Secondly, know your limits. Your job is not to be a psychologist. In conjunction with your people team make sure you work towards an appropriate referral.
Thirdly, be present for the recovery process. Part of the leader or manager’s job is to facilitate return to work. Let someone who needs help know that you expect them to recover and come back to work. Most people do.
We are seeing increasing distress amongst leaders who, while dealing with demanding roles, are taking perhaps too much of a supportive role with team members who may be suffering. The world of work is tough. Leaders must remain strong and resilient themselves. If we become too involved in the suffering of others we may suffer what is now termed empathic distress (compassion fatigue). The leader takes on the suffering of the team member. This will render you ineffective as a leader and will compromise both effective empathy and skilful support.
As we deal with more distress in the workplace, leaders need to step up to and take much better care of their own physical, emotional and cognitive resilience. Implementing a daily routine to support and sustain resilience is essential.
Ikigai is a Japanese concept akin to one’s purpose and reason for being, and Stuart Taylor says that uncovering this on an individual level and driving it on an organisational level is critical to success.
Searching for a clear and driving purpose in our lives, or one’s Ikigai, is something humans have been in pursuit of for generations. It’s becoming increasingly apparent that purpose plays a key role in the health of employees and the overall success of an organisation.
And as we become a more secular society, people are searching for purpose and meaning through their work life, and we’re seeing a progressive shift where employees care less about monetary fulfilments and more about how their work seeks to fulfil a greater purpose. In fact, a recent study by LinkedIn found that 74 per cent of job candidates want a job where they feel like their work matters.
A workplace culture thrives when an organisation and its employees identify and nurture their collective purpose.
Purpose in the workplace
While it’s been found that knowing your purpose leads to numerous personal benefits including improved health and longevity, sleep, mental health, cognitive function and resilience, it’s often forgotten amidst increasing demands, deadlines and in striving for the bottom-line is that in the context of the workplace, purpose is powerful.
In the workplace, a collective purpose refers to the shared goals and values of the organisation and its people. It is the understanding of the ‘why’ of the business – why it exists and why it is important. In the absence of purpose, organisations almost inevitably become focussed on metrics, and miss our human need for purpose and our desire to engage in meaningful work. A shared purpose operates as a propelling force behind staff, encouraging them forward with a clear sense of direction and a mutually acknowledged destination.
Without organisational purpose, your employees are simply putting in time. Their minds might be engaged, but their hearts will not be. However, when a business establishes a collective purpose it loses the need for a hard-line approach on productivity and innovation. Workers who buy into the company’s purpose are motivated from within, meaning the age-old method of top-down pressure for performance and results becomes largely unnecessary.
“Without organisational purpose, your employees are simply putting in time. Their minds might be engaged, but their hearts will not be”
In an individual sense, leaders who understand their personal purpose are more likely to be focused, efficient, and productive, and less likely to experience distress and worry. They are also more likely to be confident in their capabilities and more resilient in the face of complex tasks and problems. In the long term, people with purpose experience increased vitality, optimism and job satisfaction. In the majority of cases, they also retire later in life than those without purpose.
Finding your purpose
Finding your purpose begins with the task of identifying one’s values. Start with highlighting what is most important to you, both in the context of home and the workplace. The simple task of identifying values effectively prioritises life’s commitments and requirements, resulting in a grounding sense of perspective from which purpose emerges.
You can do this by landing on your Ikigai, a Japanese concept that can be understood as your reason for being. Ikigai calls you to draw on your passions, talents and skills to identify your role and meaning within society.
Finding your Ikigai leads to a clearer sense of purpose and increased positivity, which is reflected in your attitudes, behaviour and overall wellbeing. Ultimately, these benefits also have an impact on one’s work life, with people who have identified their Ikigai reporting higher levels of productivity, efficiency and better decision-making skills.
To find your Ikigai, ask yourself the following questions:
- What do you love?
- What are you good at?
- What does the world need?
- What can you be paid for?
“When a business establishes a collective purpose it loses the need for a hard-line approach on productivity and innovation”
How to drive organisational purpose
As relates to business, most organisations have a mission or vision statement that communicates what the business is and what it stands for. The problem is that most organisations treat this as a tickbox exercise, rather than a valuable tool that can be used to drive comradery and communicate purpose.
To drive organisational purpose, try integrating the following steps:
- Lead from the top. Creating a purposeful workplace requires commitment and action from all levels of an organisation. In order to enable staff to find their purpose, leaders must first strive to find and articulate theirs.
- Communicate purpose often. Communicating organisational purpose, encourages employees to come on board. This includes the genuine desire to improve the working lives of employees.
- Anchor your decision making to purpose. In every decision you make, ask yourself, “is this decision in line with organisational purpose?”
- Get employee buy-in. Ask employees what is important to them and try to integrate their feedback into the overall organisational purpose.
It is easy to disregard the concept of purpose as superfluous, particularly in the context of the workplace, however, it is purpose that separates an average business from one that is successful, healthy and fast-growing. An understanding and appreciation of one’s purpose are what drives workers to go above-and-beyond, sustaining them in their wellbeing, and in turn, sustaining the organisation well into the future.